The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado have some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Miners and prospectors built hundreds of miles of wagon roads into and over these mountains in the late 1800's and early 1900's. These old roads give access to this awesome scenery as well as ghost towns and mines that have a lot of history. Jeeping and ATV's are the best ways to view this magnificent mountain range.
For the ATV enthusiast: The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway system is sixty- five miles of road carved through the breathtaking San Juan Mountains connecting the towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Lake City. The area is dotted with the remains of ghost towns, mines, mills, aerial trams, and railroads as prominent reminders of the region's extensive mining history.
Seven ATV staging areas are provided for your convenience, one at Camp Bird Road, 1 mile outside of Ouray; one at Engineer Pass, 4 miles outside of Ouray; one at Corkscrew Gulch, 7 miles outside of Ouray; one at Arrastra Gulch; one at Eureka, outside of Silverton; one at the south end of Lake San Cristobal, outside of Lake City; and one at Hensen Creek on the west side of Lake City. Download a free map with staging areas this side of Lake City.
Although vehicles must stay on established roads for camping, picnicking and driving, you may park immediately adjacent to a road where such use will not damage the environment. Signs are posted where parking is not permitted.
Alpine Loop OHV Regulations:
- Colorado state law requires all unlicensed motor vehicles, including those registered in other states, to display a current Colorado OHV registration. For out-of-state visitors, this permit may be purchased at Ridgway State Park, located about 20 minutes north of Ouray on Hwy 550.
- All operators in San Juan, San Miguel, and Hinsdale counties must possess a valid driver's license. In Ouray County, unlicensed motor vehicle operators must be ten years of age or older and accompanied by a licensed driver.
- All motor vehicles must stay on legally designated routes identified on the Alpine Loop Map.
- All operators must observe barriers, signs, and other features meant to restrict vehicle travel or access.
- Liability insurance is required for all unlicensed motor vehicles
- Unlicensed motor vehicles cannot be driven within the city limits of Ouray, Silverton, Lake City, Ophir, or Telluride.
- All motor vehicles must comply with Colorado state sound limits.
- All operators must obey posted speed limits and other regulatory signs.
This information was taken from the brochure ALPINE LOOP: Motor Vehicle Summer Travel Routes. For the full brochure, complete with a detailed map, please visit the Ouray Visitors Center.
Colorado OHV Permitting:
All OHV's operated in Colorado must have a valid Colorado registration or a Colorado nonresident permit (except private property). Registration/permits cost $25.25 and are available from Colorado State Parks. Annual registration and permits are valid April 1 through March 31.
- To buy a nonresident permit call (303) 791-1920 or go to the E-store. For more information, visit the Colorado State Parks website.
- A motor vehicle is a self-propelled vehicle or vehicle drawn by a self-propelled vehicle by which persons or property may be moved, carried or transported from one place to another by land or air. All Colorado law enforcement officers can write motor vehicle (including OHV) tickets on federal public lands. Contact the public land management agencies for their current motor vehicle rules, regulations and agency maps.
- Registration decals must be affixed permanently on the upper forward half of the OHV, in a location where the decal can be easily seen. OHV operators must carry the OHV registration card and show it to any law enforcement officer upon request.
- Note: For two (2) people to ride double on an ATV, it must be designed for two people. Tickets may be issued to operators in violation of this regulation.
City of Ouray OHV Regulations:
An ATV cannot be driven on State Highway 550, Main Street in Ouray. For example, an ATV cannot access Camp Bird Road and Yankee Boy Basin from downtown Ouray because the only vehicle access is from Highway 550. Off-highway vehicles are not permitted on any city street in Ouray, with the exception of licensed, out-of-state OHV's, which are permitted on side streets.